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Voluntourism Helps in Zambia

Here is a recent article from community newspaper, Bluffton Today, on how voluntourism really DOES pay off.

Two decades of decline in demand for Zambia’s agricultural exports and severe droughts devastated Zambia’s economy. The International Monetary Fund loaned money to the country, but demanded the government decrease spending on healthcare and education, forcing local villagers to pay for the services themselves. Because the villagers subsisted on agriculture, they earned less than $1 a day, making medical care and schooling impossible.

Widespread poverty, food insecurity, lack of electricity and sanitation, plus overcrowding and sparse amounts of potable water fueled the HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria crises; in one decade, life expectancy plummeted to an average of just 33 years.

Seeing that the village was in desperate need of help, Peter Jones, owner of The River Club, paid the school tuition for all 350 children in the Simonga Village. In order to build trust and create sustainability, Jones and his staff maintained a regular presence in the community. Jones encouraged guests of The River Club to volunteer their time and skills. These voluntourists helped repair buildings, procure and distribute school supplies, stock a basic library and teach English.

In 2005, the G8 canceled $4 billion of Zambia’s debt in hopes that the government would redirect resources to the health, education and impoverished areas of the country. The government instituted a policy of free education and healthcare for people in all rural areas, though this cost thousands of educated Zambians their jobs and prevented the hiring of desperately needed doctors and teachers.

International volunteers coming to work for two years quickly became an important part of the plan, developing formal training programs and supervising the clinical practices of educators and physicians. The voluntourists were so successful that by 2008, roughly 80 percent of rural households had access to key social facilities. While electricity is still not widely available, most rural Zambians draw water from bore holes, cook on braziers, have access to pit latrines and live in structurally sound huts.


Photo: Bluffton Today

However, there is still more work to be done: nearly all professional skills are missing from the developing world, so qualified travelers who are willing to make investments of weeks or months in support of projects are still needed on an ongoing basis.

[via Bluffton Today]

Contributed by Heather Berkowitz


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